Simply one of the greatest male voices ever caught on tape. Adams was known as "the Tan Canary" for his extraordinary set of soulfully soaring pipes. Adams sang gospel professionally before crossing over to the secular world in 1959. Songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie convinced her neighbor, Adams, to record her "I Won't Cry" produced by Mac Rebbennack (Dr. John) for Ric Records. The single was a regional hit, followed by a couple others like "A Losing Battle". There were no more hits from 1962 until 1968 when Adams released a knockout version of "Release Me" that cracked the R & B Top 40 and even made the pop charts at #82. There were some other charters but Adams never enjoyed the breakout success he deserved although the country-soul classic "Reconsider Me" made the R&B Top Ten. From 1970 onward Adams recorded sparingly until being signed by Rounder Records in 1984. From there he released a steady stream of quality discs ranging between jazz, blues, soul and jazzy-soul. He died of cancer in 1998
"Heart & Soul" (SSS 1969, Vampi Soul 2005)
1.Georgia Morning Dew
* 2006 bonus tracks
***** Produced by Shelby Singleton this soul album contains all his hits from 1962-1969 like his ethereal take on "Release Me" (R & B #34 Pop #82) where he unleashes an unbelievably soulful falsetto. Also the country-soul "I Won't Cry" (R & B #41), his biggest charter "Reconsider Me" (R & B #8 Pop #28), " I Can't Be All Bad" (R & B #45 Pop #89) and "A Losing Battle", written, produced, and piano-styled by the then-unknown Mac Rebennack (Dr. John),(R & B #27). Plus many other great tracks including "Real Live Hurtin' Man", country-soul "In A Moment Of Weakness", sizzling "South Side Of Soul Street" and more. S-O-U-L.
"I Won't Cry" (Ric 1971; Rounder 1992)
1. I Won't Cry, (Oh
**** Backed by Edgar Blanchard and his Gondoliers this 14-track album compiles material recorded for Ric Records 1959-1963 including the Ray Charles-like "Life Is A Struggle" and R & B chart hit "(Oh Why) I Won't Cry". This is mostly big band ballads showcasing Adam's crooning skills as on the lovely "Nowhere To Go", "I Want To Do Everything For You" and many more. Johnny Adams is simply head and shoulders above most singers and he could sing the recipe for Won Ton soup and sell it.
"A Christmas With Johnny Adams (Ace 1975)
1. Silent Night
"Stand By Me" (Chelsea/Hep Me 1976)
1.Stand By Me
*** Loose session of rhythm, blues n' soul released on Senator Jones' Hep Me Records label. Adams recorded with Jones producing at Sea Saint Studio in New Orleans with a crack band that included (among others) Leo Nocentelli on guitar, Raymond Jones on piano and Herman Ernest on drums. Much of the material was stylized covers like Ben E. King's "Stand By Me", which is transformed into a rollicking R & B throw down with several extended minutes of vocal gymnastics by Adams that is simply stunning. "Your Love Is All I Need" is a lovely coasting soul song that was released as a single but only made some noise in New Orleans. He wails on a funky version of "Baby I Love You" and gives Aaron Neville a run for his money on "Tell It Like It Is".
"After All The Good Is Gone" (Ariola 1978)
After All The Good
Is Gone 4:09
"The Many Sides Of Johnny Adams" (Hep Me 1981)
I'm Afraid To Let
You Into My Life 3:54
"The Sweet Country Voice Of Johnny Adams" (Hep Me 1983)
1 Am I That Easy To
"Old Flames" (P-Vine 1984)
1 Old Flames
"From The Heart" (Rounder 1984)
1. I Felt Like
Breaking up Somebody's Home
*** First Rounder release is a delightful collection of R & B, blues, soul & jazz produced by Scott Billington. Joining Adams is fellow Crescent City musicians Walter "Wolfman" Washington on guitar and Red Tyler on saxophone. The set begins with a snappy, New Orelans affected version of "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home". It doesn't compare to the original let alone the definitive Albert King version but at least he did it his own way. He also jazzes up Sam Cooke's "Laughing & Clowning" and this is a better fit. Two of the choicest tracks are the finger poppin' jazzer "We Don't See Eye To Eye" and the soul/blues "Your Love Is So Doggone Good" featuring some icy cool guitar leads by the "Wolfman".
"After Dark" (Rounder 1985)
1. Lovers Will
*** Johnny pretty much eschews the jazz flourishes on this pop n' blues outing highlighting his eclectic talents. It's still a varied platter with songs ranging from John Hiatt's pop/rock songs "Lover's Will" & funny "She Said The Same Things To Me" to covers of Doc Pomus ("I Don't Know You", "Don't Give This Heart A Break") to straight up slow blues ("Garbage Man") and finally to1980s electro-funk ("Dancing Man"). Despite all the ingredients in place: great singer, good musicians, solid material- the overall sound is too sterile and hasn't aged well.
"Room With A View Of The Blues" (Rounder 1987)
1. Room With a View
**** As the title suggests this third Rounder record has a large percentage of traditional blues compared to other releases. Beginning with a one-two punch of slow blues excellence ("Room With A View" & Gladys Knight's "I Don't Want To Do Wrong") and then sliding effortlessly into the Percy Mayfield blues shuffle "Not Trust Worthy (A Lying Woman)" that could pass for a B.B. King tune. Johnny slows it down for a restrained reading of Gladys Knight's bittersweet classic "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)". Johnny's phrasing and the song's pace keep me from wanting Gladys to jump in and grab the microphone. Perhaps the best cut is the slinky "Body And Fender Man", which mines the ever fertile car/woman's body analogy. The band featuring Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Duke Robillard & Dr. John is flawless on all ten of these winners.
"Walking On A Tightrope" (Rounder 1989)
1. Walking on a
***1/2 Being that he covered three Percy Mayfield songs brilliantly on his last mostly blues record, it comes as no surprise he would do a repertory album of Mayfield's rich catalogue. Adams can sing jazz, soul and blues equally well and it must be hard to contain his immense range, thus stylized projects like this bring out the best of one style. The jazzy blues of the title cut sets the tone for a dimmed lights, smoky lounge affair. You got the swinging "Stand By" & "Never No More", strutting "My Heart Is Hangin' Heavy", the brilliant "The Lover And The Married Woman" (containing one of Adams best vocal performances) and the cocksure crooner ""Look The World Over". This album is pure class.
"The Real Me: Johnny Adams Sings Doc Pomus" (Rounder 1991)
1. Imitation of
****1/2 Doc Pomus was a terrific songwriter. Johnny Adams was an outstanding singer. Perhaps not since chocolate met peanut butter has a combination tasted this good. Okay that blithe observation aside this is one of Adams' essential purchases. Pomus even wrote several new songs and worked with Adams on planning this Rounder CD up until his own death. In a sense you could call this "Johnny Adams Sings Doc Pomus & Dr. John" since Mac Rebbenack (Dr. John) co-wrote seven of the tracks with Pomus. The 11 song set captures all the emotional dexterity of Adams' ethereal voice- anguish, heartache, cockiness, tenderness- and the accompaniment is golden. Once again greats like Dr. John, Duke Robillard and Alvin "Red" Tyler are on board. Along with Pomus classics like "No One" (a hit for Ray Charles), "Still In Love" and a heart-stopping take on "There's Always One More Time", there's new numbers that are just as good. The bittersweet, painfully romantic "She's Everything To Me" is lyrically brilliant: "I know that face may be just another face to you/But every line and wrinkle says what I put her through/She tried to make me believe I could be anything I wanted to be/She's the only thing that's everything to me". Not far behind is "The Real Me" and perhaps this is the real Johnny Adams- but it's certainly the real Doc Pomus.
"Greatest Performance" (Ace 1993)
**1/2 18 tracks recorded in the late 70s and early 80s with Senator Jones. The styles are all over the place from the maudlin "Feelings" to the discofied "Feel The Beat". As always Johnny sings beautifully and it's a good companion peace to Mardi Gras' compilation "New Orleans Rhythm & Blues" which collects the first batch of material recorded with Jones. There are only a handful of overlapping tracks. If you don't have "Stairway To Heaven" (not the Led Zeppelin song) you simply must hear this stunning cut.
"Good Morning Heartache" (Rounder 1993)
1. You Don't Know What Love Is
*** A host of jazz standards. Will have limited appeal to soul music fans but he does do Ray Charles' "Jealous Kind".
"The Verdict" (Rounder 1995)
1. Blue Gardenia
**1/2 Another jazz vocal album of standards. Some of the highlights are the brooding title track, "I Cover The Waterfront" and the Doc Pomus co-write "You Always Knew Me Better". In fact there are three Doc Pomus/Dr. John compositions here. Jazz fans should rejoice but deep soul fans may pass on this one.
"Best Of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues" (Mardis Gras 1995)
17 tracks recorded with Senator Jones circa 1976 taken mostly from his "Stand By Me" album. Lots of fine renditions of R & B classics like "Stand By Me", "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You", "Tell It Like It Is" & "Nothing Takes The Place Of You". Of course some of the covers are superfluous. The discofied version of "Spanish Harlem" is particularly forgettable. The album is not polished- it almost seems like a jam session at times- a loose band feel, such as the wild "Stand By Me". Not perfect by any means but essential for fans of the "tan canary".
1. Tell It Like It
*** 17 tracks recorded with Senator Jones circa 1976 taken mostly from his "Stand By Me" album. Lots of fine renditions of R & B classics like "Stand By Me", "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You", "Tell It Like It Is" & "Nothing Takes The Place Of You". Of course some of the covers are superfluous. The discofied version of "Spanish Harlem" is particularly forgettable. The album is not polished- it almost seems like a jam session at times- a loose band feel, such as the wild "Stand By Me". Not perfect by any means but essential for fans of the "tan canary".
"Reconsider Me" (Collectibles 1996)
1. Reconsider Me
**** 18 tracks drawn from his 1962-1969 years with Shelby Singleton's SSS label. It shares the majority of it's tracks with "Heart & Soul" but is less preferred overall.
"One Foot In The Blues" (Rounder 1996)
1. Won't Pass Me By
*** Johnny Adams can wear many hats- jazz, soul, blues and usually he wears them all on any single album. "One Foot" isn't the kind of contemporary blues record you'd expect in the 90s.This is cabaret blues, silky smooth and pretty. His foot is only dipped in soul/blues 'cuz the rest of his body is an uptown lounge ala Johnny Hartman. It's a a Hammond B-3 and horn-filled production- sparse, live-in-the-studio. Not all music has to have grit but at times you're gonna want the band to punch it up a bit. "Roadblock" is the only straight ahead blues shuffle while "Won't Pass Me By" is a chugging soul/blues with organ and horn stabs. If you are looking for a juke joint with throaty singing, blasting horns, stinging guitar, funky drumming you need to look elsewhere. If you want to sip a martini, kick off your shoes and snap your fingers to some gently swinging jazz blues you've come to the right place.
"Man Of My Word" (Rounder 1998)
1. Even Now
****1/2 Many had been waiting for the Tan Canary to cut a full fledged soul and/or soul-blues album ever since his first Rounder record some 15 years ago and finally it's here. Sadly, it's also his last for the great one died in the same year of it's release. Adams was battling cancer to record this album but you'd never guess as Adams marvelous voice sounds just as achingly good as it always did. He demonstrates throughout the 13 tracks on this album why he was so well-respected among his peers and "students" - among whom we can count Aaron Neville, who guests on the closing gospel number, "Never Alone". The centerpiece of the album is the stunning "Even Now", a slow burning melancholy masterpiece with a tremendously soulful vocal that will tug every heartstring you have. When he switches to falsetto near the end of the song it literally gave me chills. But then the mood switches on the funny Memphis soul groover "It Ain't The Same Thing", written by Dan Penn, Johnnie Barnett and Carson Whitsett. See, Johnny's not gonna watch his fat and moderate his life- he decries margarine, veggie burgers, decaf, treadmills, etc.. "A box of chicken's got a breast and a wing/Ask a hungry man it ain't the same thing!" and he don't need no treadmill 'cuz if he wants to go for a walk he'll walk around the block. Elsewhere he tears into three soulful covers, William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water", Brook Benton's "Looking Back" and Percy Sledge's "It Tears Me Up" and is fired up on new cuts like "Bulldog Break His Chain" and "Going Out Of My Mind Sale". Johnny, we're gonna miss you.
"The Immortal Soul Of" (Aim 1999)
Another collection of material recorded 1976-1983 with Senator Jones that shares tracks with "New Orleans Rhythm & Blues" and "Greatest Performance". The music here is mostly good of course but the package pales compared to those other releases and there's nothing covered here that was missed there. It's budget price makes for a good introduction to Johnny, however.
1. I Only Wanna Be With You
"There Is Always One More Time" (Rounder 2000)
1. I Feel Like
Breaking up Somebody's Home
**** This is a 15-track compilation of material he recorded for Rounder Records 1984-1998 and it could be considered a "best of" package. That's not to say this is the best of that period as the tracklist was careful to include at least one track from each of the 11 albums Adams cut for the label and that leaves some great ones out ("She's Everything To Me", "The Real Me", etc..). What it does include is a cross-section of Johnny's various styles. You have blues ("One Foot In The Blues"), deep soul ("Even Now"), jazz ("Walking On A Tight Rope"), standards ("But Not For Me"), cabaret ("A Lot Of Livin' To Do"), pop ("Lover's Will"), even gospel ("Never Alone" with Aaron Neville). Plus there's a few tracks not on any of his albums- "I Don't Know" with Ruth Brown, "I'll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her" with Alvin "Red" Tyler" and the unreleased Doc Pomus/Dr. John song "Happy Hard Times".
"Absolutely The Best" (Fuel 2000)
1. I Won't Cry
"Released: A Memorial Album"(RPM 2001)
1. Release Me
**** The most comprehensive of the many retrospectives released on Johnny Adams, this 24-track disc covers his work from 1968's "Release Me" to his Senator Jones material from 1983. While it does include his biggest hits ("Reconsider Me", "Release Me", "I Won't Cry") it's missing too many essential tracks from his 60s period (like "A Losing Battle") in place of some mediocre tracks from his late 70s period (like "Chasing Rainbows") so it's not definitive by any means. Still, there's outstanding songs and performances here and the album is terrific as it is. If you are hoping for the "ultimate Johnny Adams" compilation it hasn't materialized yet. Being that he recorded for almost four decades and the majority of his material was fabulous perhaps only a box set could do the trick.
"The Great Johnny Adams Blues Album" (Rounder 2005)
1. Not Trustworthy (A Lyin'
****1/2 It was a deft idea to collect some of Johnny's bluesiest moments onto one disc. Being that he mastered a dizzying array of styles from Deep Soul to Jazz to Pop to R & B to Lounge, etc.. it must've been hard to contain his talent on any one CD thus the majority of his albums exhibit a cornucopia of moods. There's already two straight jazz records in his Rounder canon ("The Verdict" & "Good Morning Heartache") and one Soul-leaning album ("Man Of My Word") so an all blues project feels like providence. Of course "Room With A View To The Blues" could arguably be that album already. Nevertheless, Johnny's ethereal voice wails in, out and around these 11 tracks extracted from most of his Rounder records. Two of the tracts are from "Room" such as "Not Trustworthy ("A Lying Woman" and "Room With A View"), three from "From The Heart" ("Scarred Knees", "Road Block", Laughing & Clowning"), two from "The Real Me" ("Imitation Of Love", "My Baby's Quit Me"), two from "After Dark" ("Garbage Man", "Fortune Teller"), two from "Walking On A Tightrope" ("My Heart Is Hangin' Heavy", "Danger Zone") and one from "Man Of My Word" ("This Time I'm Gone For Good"). Be warned though and make sure you have enough money. After buying this you're gonna want a whole bunch of Johnny Adams albums.
"The Great Johnny Adams R & B Album" (Rounder 2006)
1. I Need a Lot of
"An Introduction To Johnny Adams" (Varese 2006)
1. After All the
Good Is Gone
"Chasing Rainbows: The Tan Canary New Orleans Soul 1973-1981" (Shout 2007)
1. After All the Good
"Essential Recordings: The Great Johnny Adams Jazz Album" (Rounder Select 2009)
1. Come Rain Or
"Soul Of New Orleans" (Fuel 2011)
1. After All the Good is Gone